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India’s apex child rights body Friday said that its suggestion to bring down the age of a consensual, non-penetrative sexual act between two children to 12 years was meant to decriminalise ‘normal’ and ‘innocent’ behaviour by kids.

‘The reason for this formulation is not to promote child sexual promiscuity or sexual aggression among children but rather to ensure that certain forms of innocent physical exploration of each other’s bodies among children of the same age group is not criminalised,’ the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) said in a statement.

‘Otherwise it may lead to invoking criminal law and promote unnecessary institutionalization of the child. It must be acknowledged that child exploratory behaviour is quite normal and it is adults who pretend as if it is a rare social aberration,’ it added.

The statement follows protests sparked by the child body’s suggestions in the Children from Sexual Offences Bill.

The government has said that the draft bill, which will soon be introduced in the cabinet, says that consensual sex between those aged 16 to 18 is not a criminal offence.

Below the age of 16, this would be a crime.

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